Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cooking: Jim's BBQ Ribs

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted up any recipes.  My cooking adventures took a bit of a break during the months I was crushed on the book.  That sucked for any number of reasons: my family missed the neater stuff I did when I had time and wasn’t grumpy about the book, and I certainly missed the creative energy I get from tinkering around in the kitchen.

So on to this recipe.  Ribs are wonderful things, if nothing else for the wide range of styles they’re cooked in.  Ribs are very much a micro-regional thing around the US: they vary greatly from the southwest to the south to the midwest.  I’m no expert, but I enjoy them and have tinkered around with a number of different variations.

This is the simpler version of several recipes I make.  I'll often make a dry rub of sugar, ancho and chipotle chili powders, ground cumin, dry mustard, salt, pepper, oregano, and whatever else strikes me.  This simpler recipe uses Galena spice rub from Penzey's Spices (www.Penzeys.com) which is a terrific treatment all on its own.

I use a charcoal grill heated with a mix of Kingsford briquettes and hardwood lump charcoal.  Lump charcoal's important as it gives a noticeable improvement to the food you're grilling.  Get a hot fire started with the bricks, then dump on a pile of the lump and get that good and hot before slapping the ribs on the grill.  I've also got a passle of lava rocks in my grill to help evenly spread the heat around.  These are usually for gas grills but I've had great results in my charcoal one.

I also use hickory chunks soaked in water for an hour or so to retard their burning.  Toss one or two large chunks on the fire to give a very light touch of smoke flavor to the ribs.  A lighter hand with the smoke is greatly preferred to piling on scads of hickory and covering up the flavors you get from the meat and spices.

Lastly, toss a few springs of rosemary, sage, or thyme on the fire throughout the cooking.  I've got a herb garden where I grill, so I'll just reach down and grab a bit each time I'm moving the ribs around.  A light hand with the herbs is preferred.  (Skipping the herbs is fine if you don't have any.)

I don't use a gas grill, but the general process will be the same - you'll just have to figure out how use a tray for the smoking chips/chunks, although you could skip that and it wouldn't be the end of the world.

  • Pork baby back ribs
  • Galena spice rub  (www.Penzeys.com)
  • Beer or apple juice or orange juice

Start four or five hours before you plan to serve the ribs.  Coat the ribs front and back with a healthy dusting of the spice rub.  Wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge.

Two hours before serving remove the ribs from the fridge and let them come to room temperature.  (I've generally had better results working with room temp ribs vice cold ones, but it won't be catastrophic if they're not at room temp.)

90 minutes before serving start a medium-hot fire on one side of the grill using the briquettes.  When they're good and hot add the hardwood lump coal.  Place a small aluminum tray right next to the coals and pour in a beer or some apple or orange juice.  This liquid's important to help keep the ribs moist as they cook.  Beer's good, apple and orange juice work fine and lend a slightly different flavor to the ribs.

Sear the ribs over the direct heat, then move them off the heat to the other side of the grill.  Cover the grill and cook for 45 - 60 minutes, moving the ribs around occasionally.  I cooked eight or ten racks of ribs at once on my large Weber by standing the ribs on their sides and frequently moving them from direct heat to indirect heat, making sure that no racks were burning.  You’ll need to pay careful attention if you’re juggling this many ribs at once!

Important: when the ribs are cooked, remove them to a large tray/platter, cover with aluminum foil and several layers of towels.  Leave to rest for 15 minutes.  This resting period is critical because the juices from the ribs settle down and the meat finishes its cooking.


Dan Hounshell said...

Yum - sounds good. I have made some great ribs in the past compliments of a friend of mine, and his website - www.andysribs.com. The starter kit is a pretty good deal - the real prize is the cookbook; the spices you can re-create or substitute your own mix.

Jim Holmes said...

Thanks for that pointer to Andy's place, Dan. I may have to give that a try some time!

Dan Hounshell said...

Next time I cook some up we'll have to invite you and the wife and kids down.

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